Harare, March 20th 2016 | Gideon Jeph Wabvuta
In 2013, I had the opportunity to be part of the Almasi playwrights intensive workshop with Nikkole Salter. This workshop changed the way I thought about playwrighting, so whenever I would stand up and talk about playwrighting I was coming from an informed point of view. Fast forward 3 years later, I’m asked to hold a 5-day playwriting workshop for a group of school leavers in Glen View. I took up the opportunity. In a rush, I created a comprehensive curriculum based on what I had been taught by Nikkole. As I walked into the room with the youths and commenced a conversation with them, I realized I had to go back to the basic story creation.
The majority of these youths had last written anything in high school; those guided and stiff essays that are lined with a bunch of do and don’t language restrictions as well as many other factors not allowing them to explore their creativity. So I dropped all that I had been taught by Nikkole and resorted to what I had understood over the years about writing in general. We launched into a discussion about sources of stories, the basic structure of a story — beginning, middle and end — the structure of our local folktales, etc. I challenged them to think beyond the restrictions that had been drilled into them, and within no time they started exploring and fascinating stories started coming up. I pushed them further to dig deep within themselves to write about the things they cared about. One exercise that brought a chill into the room was when I called out words and they wrote the first word that popped into their minds. I tasked them to write on those words in relation to how they felt about them.
I was able to note a growth in a couple of days that I quickly moved to new aspects like how to create dialogue and character. They clearly were eager and caught on really fast, so I had to constantly upgrade what I had planned. This was a great experience, and I feel that such activities should be done often as it would be a disservice to the world for these youths to be part of a hit and run activity.